Inquirer Southern Luzon
By Ephraim Aguilar and Juan Escandor Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:27:00 08/25/2010
THERE WAS no hint at all that her “small talk” with old friends in Legazpi City on Thursday night at the family-owned German restaurant Wilkommen would be the last.
She happily showed them her bridal photos for Hair Asia Magazine, which has her as cover girl. She talked about her newfound passion for makeup artistry, and the things that kept her busy.
By Friday night, the photos of the reunion were uploaded on Facebook. Melody left a comment to her friends, “I missed you all, too. Till we meet again!”
The next day, Aug. 21, her friends were stunned that Binibining Pilipinas-International 2009 Melody Gersbach, 24, died in a car-bus collision along Maharlika Highway in Bula, Camarines Sur, at around noontime.
Melody was on her way to the screening of Miss Bicolandia, where she sat as chair of the organizing committee. Others who died in the accident were her makeup artist and couturier Alden Orense and car driver Dodong Ramos.
Melody’s life had all been about photo shoots, runways and glossy magazines from the time she became a beauty queen. But away from the limelight, she was just really a simple home buddy, a good sister and a loving daughter.
Her younger sister, Magnolia, 20, remembers how she and her sister would fight over clothes. They were exact opposites—Magnolia is outgoing and the life of the party, while Melody was quite introverted and meek.
“We would often fight, especially about clothes, but those were the times we bonded and felt the love and the care, especially hers to me,” Magnolia said during the wake at the family’s hilltop residence in Barangay Cullat in Daraga town in Albay.
The younger Gersbach said it was only when she became a public figure that Melody was able to enjoy going out. “She was a late bloomer. So it’s funny, parang nabaliktad kami.”
“I was like more of the Ate (older sister). She’d come to me and ask what to wear, and which bar drink is strong like a [curious] teenager,” Magnolia said.
“We were exact opposites, but it’s good because we would complement each other. She was very meek. On the contrary, I’m the type who’d escape without asking permission,” she added.
Their mother, Marina, said she would sometimes forget that Melody was a beauty queen. I’d ask her to drive for me and to pay the bills and she would meekly obey.
They would spend most of their time managing the family’s restaurant business together. One time, Marina said Melody told her that she wasn’t so much happy managing a restaurant.
“What she really dreamt of was to have her own clothing line and to be a makeup artist. She was full of dreams and talent. It’s a waste she would no longer be able to achieve them because of some reckless driver,” Marina said.
She said she would temporarily forget about the pain she’s going through when there were people around. “But when the visitors are gone and I’m all alone, I would break down and cry,” she said in Filipino.
“I want all of us to think that Melody just went to Germany and will be back someday,” Marina said.
Marina believes that the government should set stricter requirements for the issuance of driver’s licenses and franchises for public utility vehicles.
She said the bus operators visited her on Monday morning asking her family to forgo with the filing of charges. “I told them that they should not be stingy with the victims and prioritize helping the driver’s family and the couturier’s because they are breadwinners and Ronald Lita, the survivor, with the hospital expenses and for his full recovery in the government hospital.”
She explained to the bus operators to choose from among three options—shouldering the funeral expenses of her daughter, the cost of burial place—a mausoleum—or to compensate the family based on the one-year earning her daughter could have made if she were alive.
Melody’s soft-spoken German father, Wolfgang, said he wanted other people to remember his daughter as someone who shared to them a happy life.
He said his daughter knew very well that life was not only about earning money, “For her what was more important was to make more friendships and to share with other people things that make her happy.”
“I want everyone to remember her the same way as how she remembered people whom she cared for, stayed for and worked with,” Wolfgang said.
He added that there was something about Melody that found good in people and effortlessly understood them.
Acceptance about Melody’s early demise will be a painstaking process for her bereaved family. Wolfgang copes by choosing to accept her fate and believing in God’s higher purpose.
“The things in life that we cannot change, we must accept. My daughter Melody died and I cannot get her back. That means I have to accept it and live with it. This is the Lord’s will, which we cannot change,” Wolfgang said.